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OVC Publishing Guidelines for Print and Multimedia About OVCOJP seal: Innovation . Partnerships . Safer Neighborhoods Message From the DirectorOVC Publishing Guidelines for Print and Multimedia NCJ 229712 / March 2010
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Writing Tips


People want information that's brief, easy to understand, and to the point. Refer to OVC's Style Guide, (188 kb) which incorporates guidance from the Chicago Manual of Style and the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual. OVC uses all these materials to prepare products for publication. Use the following techniques to make your manuscript clearer and faster to read:

Use active voice. Active voice uses fewer words and is more easily understood. For example:

Don't Say

Do Say

The rights of victims have gone unrecognized by the criminal justice system for a long time. The criminal justice system did not recognize victims' rights for a long time.

Use short words. Don't use long words or phrases when short ones deliver the same message. For example—

Don't Say

Do Say

in order to
as well as
with the exception of
conduct a survey
make a decision

except for

Use short sentences. Make your point, then move on. Long sentences with many commas are difficult to read.

Avoid jargon. Steer clear of terminology specific to a field unless the intended audience is members of the field only.

Avoid colloquialisms. Write in plain language, but avoid using words or phrases that are considered informal or specific to a region or local dialect.

Avoid common grammatical errors. These errors are easy to make; be mindful of these while writing to reduce editing efforts during final production.

Affect vs. Effect

"Affect" means to influence or produce an impression—to cause an effect. "Effect" is the thing produced by the affecting agent; it describes the result or outcome.

Loose vs. Lose

"Loose" is an adjective meaning the opposite of tight or contained. "Lose" is a verb that means to suffer the loss of, to miss.

Complement vs. Compliment

"Complement" is a noun and a verb that refers to something that completes or goes well with something. "Compliment" is also a noun and a verb that means the offering of praise or flattery to another person.

Which vs. That

Use "which" with commas to set off nonrestrictive (unnecessary) clauses. Use "that" to introduce a restrictive (necessary) clause.

Your vs. You're

"Your" is the second person possessive adjective, used to describe something as belonging to you. "You're" is the contraction of "you are" and is often followed by the present participle (verb form ending in -ing).

There vs. Their

"There" refers to a place. "Their" means belonging to, or associated with, a group of people.

It's vs. Its

"It's" is a contraction of "it is" or "it has." "Its" is the possessive form of "it."

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